George Brainerd, a lifelong Brooklynite, produced a total of 2,500 photographs before his early death at age 42 in 1887. The majority of these were images of Brooklyn, a vast documentation of the urban landscape—dams and mills, bridges and train depots, engine houses and pumping stations—but also, especially after 1880, images of city dwellers and street scenes. This photograph, from about 1885, shows Brainerd’s attention to composition and captures the leisurely atmosphere at Coney Island, the playful tug-of-war between boy and dog contrasting with the more languid manner of the surrounding bathers.
Independently wealthy and the Deputy Water Purveyor for the City of Brooklyn, Brainerd was an advanced amateur photographer adept at exploring new techniques. His legacy remains in the Brooklyn Museum; about 1,900 of his glass plate negatives make up a large portion of the Museum’s huge collection of Brooklyn- and New York−themed glass plate negatives. Images such as this one were later printed from those negatives, which are often exceptionally detailed and subtle in tone.
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George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887). Boy and Dog, Iron Pier, Coney Island, Brooklyn, ca. 1885; Printed later. Gelatin silver print, Sheet: 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection, X894.150